18 November 2012

Uganda: War On Corruption Threatened By Self-Seekers


Finally those who had made it a habit to steal public resources are facing arrest:

All the investigative organs of government are in overdrive, unearthing dirt after dirt. However, all these gains could be under threat from self-seeking politicians and unfortunately such low-value antics have not spared the Western Uganda Youth MP, Gerald Karuhanga.

Watching Karuhanga on several TV channels, making a point to the effect that the minister of Karamoja, Ms Janet Museveni, made eight trips to Israel in one month made me feel sorry for Uganda's young crop of legislators.

Poor Karuhanga is obsessed with publicity. There is no way anybody with a fair share of rational reasoning could swallow the allegation that one could make eight trips to Israel in one month even if one was an airhostess.

Indeed, the First Lady, later in a personal statement, denied ever visiting Israel eight times as reported. She said that she only went to Israel once to acquaint herself with the successful irrigation projects in that country that is 100% arid. Certainly, whoever in the Prime Minister's Office documented the eight trips will be known sooner than later.

The problem is that when these self-seeking politicians make such unsubstantiated statements, which finally turn out to be false, they lose people's trust. The next time they make another statement, even if it were to be right, people will regard them as the usual antics from the unserious group.

Not so long ago, this country was practically brought to a standstill with allegations of obscene amounts of money being paid to senior ministers by one of the oil prospectors in the Albertine graben to win favourable deals. Unfortunately, again it was Gerald Karuhanga that threw the country into this frenzy. Karuhanga talked with finality, alleging that three senior ministers, Sam Kutesa, Amama Mbabazi and Hilary Onek, had pocketed bribes worth millions of dollars.

Karuhanga attained instant celebrity status at the time. Alas, just few months down the road, the allegations were proven to be phony, only generated by parties that wanted to settle scores with the said politicians. Karuhanga can only argue that Parliament is still investigating the matter but every Ugandan now knows that his allegations were farfetched, most likely driven by cheap popularity.

The recent attack on Janet Museveni by Karuhanga was uncalled for, especially before hearing her side of the story. Now, if the First Lady proves that she never visited Israel eight times like it is alleged in the Auditor General's report, will Karuhanga repair the damage he has so far caused to the minister? I doubt that.

Without any fear of contradiction, the minster of Karamoja has done commendable work for the Karamoja sub-region. For the first time in history, Karamoja has registered an unprecedented increase in food production. The Karimojong had for a long time resisted cultivating the land and thus depended entirely on their cattle-keeping for sustenance.

However, this overdependence on one source of livelihood had a devastating effect on the environment, security and lifestyle of the Karimojong. They heavily depended on donated food from WFP, which Janet Museveni felt was crippling their own ability to produce food.

She initiated an agricultural mechanization programme which included a tractor- hire scheme. Each of the seven districts of Karamoja received multi-purpose walking tractors, ox ploughs and a variety of farm implements. She has partnered with the ministry of Water and Environment to construct valley tanks in all the parishes in the sub-region, each with a capacity of 10 million litres of water. This is in addition to the larger valley dams that have been constructed in each district.

The Karimojong used to engage in deadly cattle rustling against the Iteso of Eastern Uganda. Janet Museveni's office together with the UPDF worked to recruit and train Karimojong youth to form an Anti-Stock Theft Unit (ASTU) to guard the kraals, communities and urban centres.

Ms Museveni has mobilized the Karimojong elders to play a central role in re-establishing peace in the communities and reinforcing morality and other values amongst the youth. Janet Museveni started a programme to electronically brand all the cattle in Karamoja to prevent cattle rustling.

To address the problem of poor housing, the Uganda Government has introduced low-cost housing using Hydraform technology. Finally, let the Auditor General's report be debated in its entirety and let the investigative organs of government do their thing to give us the final true picture of who stole what before smearing anyone with forged findings.

The author works at the Media Centre

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